Originally published in the January 2021 issue of Lakeside Living magazine. Click here for the magazine issue.
When I was 7, I jumped off the roof of my house with an opened umbrella, convinced I would fly. I didn’t. The ground rushed up, and I crash-landed in a heap, looking like a small, crumpled Mary Poppins peeping out of the bushes. I did succeed in not warping my sister’s new umbrella that I “borrowed,” and I walked away from my experiment with no sprains or broken bones. I learned two things that day:
1. I probably needed a bigger umbrella.
2. I’d never stop looking to the skies, wanting to fly.
On a windy December day 117 years ago, Orville Wright achieved the dream, managing to fly like a lumbering turkey for an impressive 852 feet in 59 seconds. How exhilarating that must have felt, lifting off the solid earth to experience a world that only the birds had ever known––to soar above it all, to feel the wind ruffle your hair, weightless and free. Though humans have made extraordinary strides in the field of aviation, no invention will ever compare to the effortless grace of a bird in flight.
There’s a startling elegance in the moment the Great Egret spreads the silken feathers of its snow-white wings, stretching its slender neck upward into flight until only the tips of its ebony talons skim the surface.
To see effortlessness in action, turn your gaze to the lake where Great Blue Herons glide silently above the rippling waters.
While some birds soar the skies with grace and ease, others fly like bullets, waiting for the precise moment to dive and swoop up their prey. The Osprey takes to the air with steady wingbeats, soaring ever higher with its distinctive arrow-like wings.
The sight of a regal Bald Eagle in flight rouses a sense of freedom and exploration that makes me wonder why Benjamin Franklin ever wanted the awkward wild turkey as America’s national bird.
While I still wish I could lift my body like a heron to the skies, I think it’s best to leave that to the birds. Their feats of flight are gift enough. My days of leaping off the roof wielding an umbrella are far behind me, and that’s probably for the best. Perhaps the problem was I didn’t have enough faith, or maybe humans with enough faith are given a different kind of wings.